Czesław Miłosz


Czesław Miłosz
Czesław Miłosz

Czesław Miłosz at the Miami Book Fair International of 1986
Born June 30, 1911(1911-06-30)
Szetejnie (Šeteniai), Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire (now in modern Lithuania)
Died August 14, 2004(2004-08-14) (aged 93)
Kraków, Poland
Occupation Poet, prose writer, essayist
Nationality Polish
Citizenship Polish, American
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature (1980)

Czesław Miłosz ([ˈt​͡ʂɛswaf​ ​ˈmiwɔʂ] ( listen); 30 June 1911 – 14 August 2004) was a Polish poet, prose writer and translator of Lithuanian origin[1][2][3] and subsequent American citizenship.[3] His World War II-era sequence The World is a collection of 20 "naive" poems. He defected to the West in 1951, and his nonfiction book The Captive Mind (1953) is a classic of anti-Stalinism. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Contents

Life in Europe

Czesław Miłosz (right) with brother Andrzej Miłosz at PEN Club World Congress, Warsaw, May 1999

Czesław Miłosz was born on June 30, 1911 in the village of Seteniai (Lithuanian: Šeteniai), Kaunas Governorate, Russian Empire (now Kėdainiai district, Kaunas County, Lithuania) on the border between two Lithuanian historical regions of Samogitia and Aukštaitija in central Lithuania. He was a son of Aleksander Miłosz (d.1959), a civil engineer, and Weronika, née Kunat (d.1945), descendant of the Siručiai noble family. Miłosz was fluent in Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, English and French.[4] His brother, Andrzej Miłosz (1917–2002), a Polish journalist, translator of literature and of film subtitles into Polish, was a documentary-film producer who created Polish documentaries about his brother.

Miłosz was raised Catholic in rural Lithuania and emphasized his identity with the multi-ethnic Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a stance that led to ongoing controversies; he refused to categorically identify himself as either a Pole or a Lithuanian.[5] He said of himself: "I am a Lithuanian to whom it was not given to be a Lithuanian.",[6] and "My family in the sixteenth century already spoke Polish, just as many families in Finland spoke Swedish and in Ireland English, so I am a Polish not a Lithuanian poet. But the landscapes and perhaps the spirits of Lithuania have never abandoned me".[7] Miłosz memorialised his Lithuanian childhood in a 1955 novel, The Issa Valley, and in the 1959 memoir Native Realm.[8]

In his youth, Miłosz came to adopt, as he put it, a "scientific, atheistic position mostly", though he was later to return to the Catholic faith.[9] After graduating from Sigismund Augustus Gymnasium in Vilnius, he studied law at Stefan Batory University and in 1931 he travelled to Paris, where he was influenced by his distant cousin Oscar Milosz, a French poet of Lithuanian descent and a Swedenborgian. His first volume of poetry was published in 1934. After receiving his law degree that year, he again spent a year in Paris on a fellowship. Upon returning, he worked as a commentator at Radio Wilno, but was dismissed, an action described as stemming from either his leftist views or for views overly sympathetic to Lithuania.[6][10] Miłosz wrote all his poetry, fiction and essays in Polish and translated the Old Testament Psalms into Polish.

Miłosz spent World War II in Warsaw, under Nazi Germany's "General Government". Here he attended underground lectures by Polish philosopher and historian of philosophy and aesthetics, Władysław Tatarkiewicz. He did not participate in the Warsaw Uprising since he resided outside Warsaw proper. After World War II, Miłosz served as cultural attaché of the communist People's Republic of Poland in Paris. In 1951 he defected and obtained political asylum in France. In 1953 he received the Prix Littéraire Européen (European Literary Prize).

Life in the United States

Czesław Miłosz 1998

In 1960 Miłosz emigrated to the United States, and in 1970 he became a U.S. citizen. In 1961 he began a professorship in Polish literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1978 he received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He retired that same year, but continued teaching at Berkeley. Milosz' personal attitude about living in Berkeley is sensitively portrayed in his poem, "A Magic Mountain," contained in a collection of translated poems entitled Bells in Winter, published by Ecco Press (1985). Having grown up in the cold climates of Eastern Europe, Milosz was especially struck by the lack of seasonal weather in Berkeley and by some of the brilliant refugees from around the world who became his friends at the university.

In 1980 Miłosz received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Since his works had been banned in Poland by the communist government, this was the first time that many Poles became aware of him.[citation needed] When the Iron Curtain fell, Miłosz was able to return to Poland, at first to visit and later to live part-time in Kraków. He divided his time between his home in Berkeley and an apartment in Kraków. In 1989, he received the U.S. National Medal of Arts and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. During this period in Poland, his work was silenced by government-censored media.

Miłosz's 1953 book The Captive Mind is a study about how intellectuals behave under a repressive regime, a work which he himself later translated into English. Miłosz observed that those who became dissidents were not necessarily those with the strongest minds, but rather those with the weakest stomachs; the mind can rationalize anything, he said, but the stomach can take only so much. Through the Cold War, the book was often cited by US conservative commentators such as William F. Buckley, Jr..

Miłosz spoke of the difficulty of writing religious poetry in a largely postreligious world. His compatriot Pope John Paul II, commenting upon some of his work, in particular "Six Lectures in Verse", said to him, "You make one step forward, one step back." Miłosz answered, "Holy Father, how in the twentieth century can one write religious poetry differently?" The Pope smiled.[11]

Death and legacy

Miłosz died in 2004 at his Kraków home, aged 93 and was buried in Kraków's Skałka Roman Catholic Church, one of the last to be commemorated there.[12] His first wife, Janina (née Dłuska), whom he had married in 1944, predeceased him in 1986. They had two sons, Anthony (b. 1947) and John Peter (b.1951 ). His second wife, Carol Thigpen, an American-born historian, died in 2002.

Miłosz is honoured at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust, as one of the "Righteous among the Nations". A poem by Miłosz appears on a Gdańsk memorial to protesting shipyard workers who had been killed by government security forces in 1970. His books and poems have been translated by many hands, including Jane Zielonko, Peter Dale Scott, Robert Pinsky and Robert Hass.

From October 19 through October 21, Claremont McKenna College will host Milosz and the Future: A Centenary Festival in Honor of Czeslaw Milosz to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Milosz's birth. Speakers will include Jacek Dehnel, Piotr Florczyk, Jacek Gutorow, W.S. Merwin, Adam Michnik, Azar Nafisi, Robert Pinsky, Peter Dale Scott, Tomasz Rozycki, Dariusz Sosnicki and Joanna Trzeciak.

Selected works

Poetry collections

  • 1936: Trzy zimy (Three Winters); Warsaw: Władysława Mortkowicz
  • 1945: Ocalenie (Rescue); Warsaw: Czytelnik
  • 1954: Światło dzienne (The Light of Day); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1957: Traktat poetycki (A Poetical Treatise); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1962: Król Popiel i inne wiersze (King Popiel and Other Poems); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1965: Gucio zaczarowany (Gucio Enchanted); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1969: Miasto bez imienia (City Without a Name); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1974: Gdzie słońce wschodzi i kedy zapada (Where the Sun Rises and Where it Sets); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1982: Hymn o Perle (The Poem of the Pearl); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1984: Nieobjęta ziemia (The Unencompassed Earth); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1989: Kroniki (Chronicles); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1991: Dalsze okolice (Farther Surroundings); Kraków: Znak
  • 1994: Na brzegu rzeki (Facing the River); Kraków: Znak
  • 2000: To (It), Kraków: Znak
  • 2002: Druga przestrzeń (The Second Space); Cracow: Znak
  • 2003: Orfeusz i Eurydyka (Orpheus and Eurydice); Kraków: WL
  • 2006: Wiersze ostatnie (Last Poems) Kraków: Znak

Prose collections

  • 1953: Zniewolony umysł (The Captive Mind); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1955: Zdobycie władzy (The Seizure of Power); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1955: Dolina Issy (The Issa Valley); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1959: Rodzinna Europa (Native Realm); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1969: The History of Polish Literature; London-New York: MacMillan
  • 1969: Widzenia nad Zatoką San Francisco (A View of San Francisco Bay); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1974: Prywatne obowiązki (Private Obligations); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1976: Emperor of the Earth; Berkeley: University of California Press
  • 1977: Ziemia Ulro (The Land of Ulro); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1979: Ogród Nauk (The Garden of Science); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1981: Nobel Lecture; New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1981
  • 1983: The Witness of Poetry; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
  • 1985: Zaczynając od moich ulic (Starting from My Streets); Paris: Instytut Literacki
  • 1986: A mi Európánkról (About our Europe); New York: Hill and Wang
  • 1992: Szukanie ojczyzny (In Search of a Homeland); Kraków: Znak
  • 1995: Metafizyczna pauza (The Metaphysical Pause); Kraków: Znak
  • 1996: Legendy nowoczesności (Modern Legends, War Essays); Kraków: WL
  • 1997: Zycie na wyspach (Life on Islands); Kraków: Znak
  • 1997: Piesek przydrożny (Roadside Dog); Kraków: Znak
  • 1997: Abecadło Milosza (Milosz's Alphabet); Kraków: WL
  • 1988: Inne Abecadło (A Further Alphabet); Kraków: WL
  • 1999: Wyprawa w dwudziestolecie (An Excursion through the Twenties and Thirties); Cracow: WL
  • 2004: Spiżarnia literacka (A Literary Larder); Kraków: WL
  • 2004: Przygody młodego umysłu; Kraków: Znak
  • 2004: O podróżach w czasie; (On time travel) Kraków: Znak

Translations by Miłosz

References

  1. ^ Encyclopedia of World Biography, Volume 11‎ - Page 40
  2. ^ Robinson Jeffers, Dimensions of a poet‎ - Page 177
  3. ^ a b "The Civic and the Tribal State: The State, Ethnicity, and the Multiethnic State" By Feliks Gross - Page 124
  4. ^ Anderson, Raymond H. (August 15, 2004). "Czeslaw Milosz, Poet and Nobelist Who Wrote of Modern Cruelties, Dies at 93". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9800E5DC123FF936A2575BC0A9629C8B63. Retrieved March 17, 2008. 
  5. ^ "In Memoriam". University of California. http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/senate/inmemoriam/czeslawmilosz.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-17. "Miłosz would always place emphasis upon his identity as one of the last citizens of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a place of competing and overlapping identities. This stance—not Polish enough for some, not Lithuanian to others—would give rise to controversies that have not ceased with his death in either country." 
  6. ^ a b (Lithuanian) "Išėjus Česlovui Milošui, Lietuva neteko dalelės savęs". Mokslo Lietuva (Scientific Lithuania). http://www.lms.lt/ML/200415/20041501.htm. Retrieved October 16, 2007. 
  7. ^ Lost and found: the discovery of Lithuania in American fiction Aušra Paulauskienė Rodopi 2007 page 24
  8. ^ Marech, Rona. "CZESLAW MILOSZ 1911-2004". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/08/15/MNGA988H5M1.DTL. Retrieved March 20, 2008. 
  9. ^ Haven, Cynthia L., "'A Sacred Vision': An Interview with Czesław Miłosz", in Haven, Cynthia L. (ed.), Czesław Miłosz: Conversations. University Press of Mississippi, 2006, p. 145.
  10. ^ "Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish émigré poet, died on August 14th, aged 93". The Economist. 2004-08-14. http://www.economist.com/node/3104407. Retrieved 2011-04-06. "In pre-war Poland Mr Milosz felt stifled by the prevailing Catholic-nationalist ethos; he was sacked from a Polish radio station for being too pro-Lithuanian." 
  11. ^ "Czesław Miłosz Interviewed by Robert Faggen", The Paris Review No. 133 (Winter 1994).
  12. ^ Photos from Milosz's funeral in Krakow

Further reading

  • Zagajewski, Adam, editor (2007) Polish Writers on Writing featuring Czeslaw Milosz. Trinity University Press
  • Faggen, Robert, editor (1996) Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czesław Miłosz. Farrar Straus & Giroux
  • Haven, Cynthia L., editor (2006) Czeslaw Milosz: Conversations. University Press of Mississippi ISBN 1578068290
  • Miłosz, Czesław (2006) New and Collected Poems 1931-2001. Penguin Modern Classics Poetry ISBN 0141186410 (posthumous collection)
  • Miłosz, Czesław (2010) Proud To Be A Mammal: Essays on War, Faith and Memory. Penguin Translated Texts ISBN 0141193190 (posthumous collection)

External links

Profiles and interviews

Works and archive


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